With retailers seeking to maximise sales during the Christmas and New Year period, Helen Griffin, solicitor at Harrison Drury, answers some of the most frequently asked questions to ensure retailers keep the new Consumer Rights Act 2015 (CRA) front of mind during the Christmas rush.
Described as ‘the biggest shake up in consumer rights law’, the CRA, which came into force on 1 October 2015 affects all businesses selling goods or services to consumers.
Q. How do I ensure my business fits within the aims of the CRA?
A. Consumers should understand their key rights, including the right to:
- clear and honest information from you before they buy;
- get what they pay for;
- have goods that are fit for purpose and services performed with reasonable care and skill;
- have any faults in purchases put right free of charge, or be offered a refund or a replacement.
Q. What sort of business areas does the CRA apply to?
A. It creates a three-tiered remedy system, which applies to goods, services and digital content supplied to consumers. The new act does not cover goods or services sold to other businesses.
Q. Are customers always entitled to a refund and how long do customers have to bring back a faulty item?
A. The right to a refund depends upon whether the item is faulty and how long the customer has owned it. If an item is faulty, customers now have a 30-day timeframe in which they can reject the item and receive a full refund.
Q. Can retailers offer to repair a faulty product?
A. Absolutely, however, if you are unable to repair or replace a faulty item in one attempt, then the customer is entitled to a refund or a price reduction. If the customer does not want a refund or reduction in price, they can instead request a further attempt to repair or replace the faulty item.
Q. What should retailers do if the faulty product was purchased more than 30 days ago?
A. There is a presumption in the customer’s favour that the item was faulty when it was purchased if it has been less than six months. Retailers must offer a repair or replacement if the faulty product or service was bought in the past six months, but there is no immediate automatic right to a refund if purchased more than 30 days ago.
If a retailer can demonstrate that the product or service was not faulty when purchased, then it is not obliged to offer any remedy top the consumer, however retailers will often need to seek expert evidence to prove this.
Q. If it has been over six months since purchase, are retailers obliged to offer consumers a remedy?
A. If a customer states an item is faulty more than six months after purchase, the presumption is that it was not faulty at the time of purchase and it is up to the customer to prove otherwise.
Q. If we end up refunding a customer, can I make a deduction for use?
A. No, not if the refund is made within six months of purchase. One exception is if the item is a motor vehicle.
Q. My firm supplies digital content that a consumer has to pay for and/or digital content that comes free with a paid for item. Does the CRA apply to my business?
A. Yes it does. Customers purchasing your digital content will now have consumer protection.
Q. The CRA will not apply to my firm as we will ask customers to sign terms and conditions excluding it.
A. This is not possible. Customers will be able to challenge any unfair terms in contracts. This will include any hidden fees and charges and key terms will be assessed for fairness.
Retailers should also consider the implications of the Consumer Contracts (Information, Cancellation and Additional Charges) Regulations 2013, which impact upon sales made at a distance such as online, as well as face-to-face in store.
Retailers should not hesitate to ask any questions they may have regarding the new or existing legislation, as a breach could be damaging for both the businesses’ bank balance and reputation.
For more information on the new Consumer Rights Act 2015, please contact Helen griffin on 01772 258321